Naysayers are going to tell you that the pursuit of happiness has something wrong with it. It’s deluded, it’s selfish, it’s impossible with the world in the state it’s in. They think they’re being contrarian. On the contrary, that is the default view. It’s contrarian to stand up for happiness as a worthy, even necessary, moral goal and ethical - well, I won’t say ‘duty’ - ...option. Ethical option. Part of this is because of all the negative things that happy people don’t do.
Happy people don’t act up.
Let’s catalogue this.
Happy people are not belligerent.
Happy people don’t vandalize things.
Happy people don’t abuse their kids or hurt animals.
Happy people don’t spread negative gossip.
Happy people don’t sabotage others’ happiness.
Happy people are not motivated to cause harm.
See what I’m saying here? A person who did engage in these negative activities would, ipso facto, not be a happy person. Someone who is content, grateful, even cheerful, would not be inclined to do these things. Probably the thought would never cross their mind.
This is a good measure of whether something is a wise course of action or not. Is this something happy people do? Or is it something a happy person would not do?
‘Happy’ does not necessarily mean ‘carefree.’ A counterargument could be made that a ‘happy’ person is a hedonist, a sloppy and irresponsible person who leaves a trail of mess and debt. Really, though? Such a person would eventually start to receive increasing amounts of criticism and disrespect, and that is not consistent with longterm happiness.
An inconsiderate person is missing out on the happiness of doing nice things for others. There is also a missed opportunity for earning respect and gaining an excellent reputation.
Not that striving for reputation is all that good an idea. Depending on the opinions of others is not the path toward happiness, it’s rather a narrow and muddy track into the brambles. Happy people are happy because they have found something inside themselves that makes them that way.
Probably a lot of widely different things make happy people happy. Speaking for myself, I find that things that make me happy aren’t always on other people’s radar. They aren’t noticing things that are, for me, a constant wellspring of delight.
Delight is certainly one ingredient of happiness!
There’s a corollary to the idea that happy people don’t do certain things, and that is that unhappy people also don’t do certain things. Seeing a quadrant diagram here... Happy people do things that unhappy people don’t do, etc.
Unhappy people don’t delight in small things.
Unhappy people do not seek out awe-inspiring experiences.
Unhappy people do not create their own atmosphere of domestic contentment.
Unhappy people are not consoled by nature.
Unhappy people do not spread good cheer to others.
You never know when a single comment or facial expression can make the difference in someone else’s day. Anyone who has ever worked in customer service can testify to this. People have their reasons for being rude or throwing tantrums, and maybe they’re good ones, but probably they’re not.
A single kind remark or empathetic gaze can make someone feel connected and cared for. Far more often, all sorts of sniping cruddy little bits of sarcasm or dirty looks are going to be fired throughout the day. It tends to spill over onto innocent bystanders.
You never know when the person on the receiving end just got fired, got a bad diagnosis, or had a death in the family. You never know when someone overheard something snappy at a low moment, and it contributed to their overall outlook on life. Unhappiness spreads like mold spores, and unhappy people like it that way.
On the other hand, you never know when a simple smile or word of courtesy is going to make the difference. It may be the first time someone has made eye contact with that person and smiled at them all day. It may be the first time someone has spoken directly to them or treated them kindly all week. It may be the first compliment they’ve ever received in their life.
Unhappy people don’t think about these things. Unhappy people think about themselves.
It’s possible to shake out of a mental spiral. Disrupt it. The quickest way to do that is to do something nice for someone. Thinking about someone else is a minute you didn’t spend thinking about your own problems. Maybe you still have the same problems you did a minute ago, but something positive has come from it, and nobody can take that away.
Happy people have this built into their worldview. Most of the nice things that happy people do are instinctual and don’t require a moment’s hesitation. Happy people don’t wait to be kind.
Because happy people believe in happiness, they are much quicker to fix small problems before they become bigger problems. Unhappy people believe in unhappiness, and problematic situations fit well in that worldview. Happy people don’t tolerate persistent problems.
It’s possible to stay unhappy while fixing persistent problems, if you want it that way. When I was young and poor, I would come home and scrub the bathtub whenever I’d had a rotten day. I figured I could be sad with a clean bathtub or a dirty bathtub, and at least I could have a nice soak in the clean bathtub. On the worst days, at least a depressing mess isn’t contributing to everything.
I believed in my ability to affect my own circumstances. Therefore, I did.
Happy people don’t quit trying. Happy people know there’s a better way, and they’re not going to give up until they’ve made it back. This is why happy people are the ones changing the world.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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